Typing out how to get rid of bed bugs in a mattress is an infuriating experience. Because that means that these bloodsuckers have infiltrated sacred territory.
Your bed is your sanctuary, the place you come to curl up and get away from the stresses of everyday life. So finding a bed bug in your bed is more than disgusting – it’s an absolute outrage.
But don’t worry – you can get rid of them. And you can do it without throwing your expensive mattress away.
Do Bed Bugs Only Live in Beds?
Nope. Bed bugs are attracted to us by our body heat and the carbon dioxide we exhale so any place we live, sleep, rest, work, and stay will be a good housing situation for them.
That means bed bugs can live pretty much anywhere – furniture, behind headboards and pictures on the wall, clothes, inside luggage and purses, even inside appliances like alarm clocks and coffee makers!
This is why you should be careful about what you bring into your home – things like used furniture and clothes are common causes of bed bugs.
But while they can and will live in almost anything that’s available to them, bed bugs do have a soft spot for beds.
That’s because beds make for a particularly enticing home for a family of bed bugs. Mattresses, box springs, and even the bed frame can make cozy places for the bed bugs to hide and breed in while the vulnerable position we’re in when we’re sleeping makes it the perfect feeding grounds for bed bugs.
Lucky for us, bed bugs lurking in the bed are fairly easy to get rid of.
How to Get Rid of Bed Bugs in a Mattress
Ready to unleash the fury and obliterate these blood suckers? Here’s how to get rid of bed bugs in a mattress in just 3 easy steps – and make sure they don’t move back in.
Create a Bed Bug Free Zone
The first thing you want to do to get rid of bed bugs in a mattress is to secure it from bed bugs.
Your first move is to literally move your bed away from the walls and other furniture. Isolate it in the center of the room if you have to, just make sure it’s not touching anything – only the legs should be touching the floor.
If the bottom of your mattress or box spring is on the floor, get yourself some universal bed legs or bed lifts. Since bed bugs cannot jump or fly, they’re only able to get to your bed by crawling so lifting you bed up allows you to eliminate the majority of the bed bug highway to your bed.
Next, place bed bug traps under all four bed legs. Bed bugs will crawl up the grooved outer edge of the trap and then get stuck in the ridge, preventing them from making their way into your bed.
Now that you’ve made sure more bed bugs can’t get to your mattress, let’s kill the ones that are currently living in it.
Kill the Bed Bugs in the Mattress
This is the satisfying part: killing the bed bugs that have been living in your mattress. Of course, the last thing you want to do is douse your precious bed in chemicals – you sleep there, after all!
The good news is that the best way to kill bed bugs on your mattress is all natural – and highly effective to boot.
So how do we do it? Through the steady application of heat. Heat is one of the most effective ways to kill bed bugs. Here’s how to use it to get rid of bed bugs in a mattress.
Get rid of bed bugs on your bedding
Let’s start with the easy stuff – your sheets, pillowcases, and comforter. Strip your bed of everything and wash and dry it at the highest setting.
Wondering what temperature kills bed bugs? It depends how long the heat is sustained. Bed bugs will die at 113 degrees Fahrenheit if it’s sustained for 90 minutes or more. But they’ll die in just 20 minutes at 118 degrees Fahrenheit. Bed bug eggs are a little more resilient – to get rid of them, you need to expose them to 118 degrees Fahrenheit for 90 minutes to reach 100% mortality.
Since clothes dryers typically reach 120 degrees Fahrenheit – you’re in luck. The bed bugs will probably be dead after 30 minutes on high heat, but run it for at least 90 minutes to make sure you killed them all.
Get rid of bed bugs on your mattress
The mattress is a little bit trickier since you can’t just throw it in the wash.
So how to kill bed bugs in a mattress? Steam them to death.
A professional heat steam treatment costs $300 to $1,200 but you can pick up a home steam cleaner that you can use again and again to clean and sanitize your house, even after you get rid of bed bugs.
We recommend the Vapamore Primo Steam Cleaning System – it produces steam at a temperature of 214 degrees, which will kill bed bugs and more importantly, their eggs. And while it is a little pricey, it’s great quality and also comes with a lifetime warranty.
Steaming is slow, methodical work and will take a bit of patience. You want to move slowly enough that the heat concentration is maintained over every inch of surface – one inch per second is a good pace to remember.
Steam kills within one inch of the steamer tip so maintain at least a one inch distance to the mattress as you steam. Oh, and before you start steaming, wrap a piece of cloth around the tip of the steamer so that the steam coming out doesn’t blow bed bugs and their eggs across the room.
Here’s a helpful video on steaming your mattress.
You’ll also want to steam your box springs and the entire bed frame as well.
Trap and kill bed bugs in your mattress
Okay, no more instructions on how to get bed bugs out of your bed – now, it’s all about keeping the remaining bed bugs trapped in the bed.
To do this, you’ll need:
- Food-grade Diatomaceous Earth (DE) – get it here. DE is probably the most popular (and effective) natural bed bug treatment. It’s made up of fossilized sea creatures called diatoms whose bodies are primarily made up of silicon dioxide. When bed bugs come in contact with DE, it begins to absorbs the oils and fats from within the bed bug, drying it to death from the inside out.
- A mattress cover – get it here. In order for DE to work, bed bugs must come in contact with it. The best way to ensure this happens is to seal off your mattress, preventing any bed bugs from escaping. The best one for this purpose is Sleep Defense System’s bed bug proof mattress cover – it feels great on skin and doesn’t make crinkling noises when you move.
Here’s how you do it:
- Before you start. Wait until your mattress is dry before sprinkling DE since it must be dry in order for it to work. Also, DE is natural and safe but it can cause irritation if it comes in contact with your skin, eyes or if inhales so wear a face mask, gloves and goggles.
- Apply the DE. Sprinkle the DE dust throughout your entire mattress. Make sure to distribute it evenly all over the surface so the bed bugs can’t avoid it – if you throw mounds of the stuff here and there, the bed bugs will just walk around it. Use a duster to make it easy to evenly distribute the bed bug-killing powder.
- Seal it off. Encase your mattress with the cover, making escape impossible for the bed bugs. This mattress cover seals tightly, but just to be safe, put duct tape over the zipper just to make sure not even the tiniest nymphs escape.
- Make it easy to spot bed bugs. A smart extra step to take to protect yourself from bed bugs is to use light-colored bedding from now on so you can easily spot any bed bugs trying to take up residence on your sheets.
DE can kill bed bugs within 24 to 48 hours after contact, but to make sure you kill all living adult and nymph bed bugs as well as any eggs, keep the mattress sealed like this for at least 4 to 6 weeks.
This should wipe out pretty much all the bastards living in your bed bug mattress, but since there is always the chance that a few may not come in contact with the DE – we recommend you keep the mattress cover on for up to a year.
Why? Bed bugs can live up to a year without a blood meal, so starving any bed bugs that might’ve escaped the DE is a surefire way of making sure you’ve killed all the bed bugs in your mattress. Plus, Sleep Defense’s mattress cover is just as comfortable as sleeping without one.
Okay, that’s it. If you followed all these steps, you’re on your way to a bed bug free mattress! Ready to get started eliminating these nasty bloodsuckers from the rest of your home? Here’s how to get rid of bed bugs everywhere.
Update: This article was updated in March 2022.